More on Not-Working

I’m still trying to figure out not-working (I’m not ready to call it retirement – see Notes below). We’ve been traveling a lot, which has been great and has allowed me to put off addressing the problem. Travel is easy; it’s self-contained; doesn’t need more. Certainly there can be difficult times and sometimes some boredom, even though boredom is not inherent in travel. I’m more likely to panic or be frustrated than bored.

LouisCKHowever, back at home I find boredom is an insidious problem because I have too much time on my hands. I know Louis CK believes we have no right to be bored. So now I feel guilty as well as bored 🙂

Of course, there are things that need to be done – mainly errands that seem to take far too long. Then there was the project of buying a home and moving into it, but that’s now over. So I cycle, and hike, but these neither take enough time, nor are they emotionally satisfying. So I fill up that extra time by doing other emotionally unsatisfying things like reading articles on the web – such as this one 🙂

EBWhiteI know some of the answers – have a project, do things with friends, help others, save the world. But my dilemma is beautifully addressed by E.B. White:

“If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

I’d like to get involved in a big project that would benefit others, but I also want the freedom and flexibility to go cycling when I feel like it, or take off and go hiking in Utah, or travel to other lands.

Rocks-and-RopeFor the time being I’m solving my boredom problem by doing new things. Tanya and I have taken up indoor rock climbing three days a week. And we are doing two art classes – drawing, and pastels – both of which require us to practice every day.

Now it sometimes feels that there is too much going on and I’m more likely to feel overwhelmed than bored. But I do have some ideas to try, and I’ll write about them someday in the future when I’m feeling bored.


On a hike in New Zealand earlier this year we passed a young couple talking with an older man. The young couple asked him if he was retired, and he replied, No. He then asked if they were retired and they said, Yes, they were retired. I sensed that he wasn’t happy to hear that. I don’t know whether they had made lots of money working for a startup that hit the big time, or, more likely, they made their money the old fashioned way – they inherited it. Whatever the reason, I decided that it’s not really a good thing to parade your retirement, especially if you look young. I’m only a few years from my official retirement age, but decided if asked that I would say “I’m taking some time off work.”

Links and Other Clicks

There’s a wonderful book for anyone thinking of retiring that is well worth reading – How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free. It’s the best book on retirement I’ve read.

And here are a couple of videos of Louis C.K. for your entertainment.

This entry was posted in Engagement, Retirement, Time Management, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to More on Not-Working

  1. Marcus says:

    For workplace motivation I like Daniel Pink’s “autonomy, mastery, purpose” model

    Do you think it applies or is useful to your not-working situation? My initial thought is you probably are good on the autonomy scale, have no barriers to mastery, but need to find and cultivate more purpose (which is a non-trivial problem).


  2. Great Post Alec,

    It makes me feel better about my work status – which includes:
    * Reading Alec’s blog and being envious of his travels
    * Ruminating that I should travel more… I need to plan my next vacation… etc…
    * “Mark, you just wasted half an hour on FB, and in fact more than wasted it because I feel worse for it – not better.”
    * Thinking that if I just focused on work now than I could retire sooner.
    * Thinking that after 28 years I deserve to goof off during the day and chase my wife around the house trying to get her to have a nooner with me.
    * I need to really learn Spanish
    * I need to learn to sail
    * I need to volunteer more
    * I’m fat – I need to go for a ride.
    And on and on it goes. Sounds like it doesn’t end when “you take some time off”.


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